Using Excel and IE together

After years in computing, I get very frustrated when I have to retype data that is already in a file somewhere. When I needed to find images for the census records of some people in my One Name Study this was exactly what was happening – I would look at the record in the spreadsheet, retype the names into the browser (browsing one of the subscription sites), find the right person, then find the right image, download it, type in a filename and save it, then copy that name back into the spreadsheet record. Given my tendency to make errors, I’m surprised I’ve found so few so far.

I eventually realised that Excel can call up an Internet Explorer browser object (I normally use Firefox, but if I can save energy I can forego my principles!). So a couple of hours later I had a couple of Excel macros. The first one runs at the start of the session to initialise the IE browser object – otherwise you end up with hundreds of instances of the browser objects and your system eventually crashes. The second macro is called from a keyboard shortcut and copies the first name and surname, and year of birth (there are always too many John Micklethwaites to choose from) from the record where the shortcut was called and calls up the subscription site page in the browser object and fills in the fields with the data from the record. It also creates a filename for the image and pastes it both to the record and to the clipboard. I then task switch (Alt+Tab) to the browser, check the search fields (sometimes exact search is useful, sometime it isn’t) and click Search. From the list I select the right image and when it comes to saving it, I can paste in the filename from the clipboard. Then I task switch back to the spreadsheet and use the shortcut on the next record.


Simples! Job done!

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